Reflections on our life and lessons in uganda
in the middle of Uganda, Subsaharan African bush. You would never find it if you don’t know where to look. It hasn’t always been a great house, in fact it’s owners had to move out because it had some mold. They pulled off the roof and gave it a new attic; redid the kitchen and both bathrooms (very nicely), and re-roofed it, so the mold should be done away with. Of course living in the heart of Africa, any house that has been through the wet season will always have some mold, it is just an inevitability of living on this side of the world.
This house can do a lot of things that most houses can't, in fact, I have a lot of friends back in the states who dream of building some of the systems on this house into their own houses. It’s fully self sustaining. It has its own solar electrical system and water collection system! It even has a well planned garden out back that has the ability to give food year round. For me, it’s a pretty great house.
We’ve been living here for a month now, and lest you think we are flushing money down the drain, this house is only costing us 150,000 shillings a month; that’s $44. I don’t think anyone could say we are getting ripped off; I believe we are getting a steal. And yet, what that money ultimately covers is the workers from New Hope that this house employs like the gardener and maintenance workers. So even in the rent that we pay to live here, we are really just supporting the ministry we are training at by keeping them from spending money on an empty house. It’s amazing how God works out every detail like that.
But even just for our ministries, this house has been invaluable. We have a discipleship group 2-3 times a week where we have seen a ton of growth in a few people already. It’s funny how being on fire for God will ignite everyone around you. We’ve had a relationship counseling session, our first ever (officially) that went really well. We have even gotten to throw a surprise party for a friend who turned 37 and has only celebrated 1 birthday his whole life. We’ve had worship days, juice squeezing parties, group homework nights, and have even gotten to offer hot showers for our friends.
The best part of this house though is when we walk through the front door, we are walking into a sanctuary. It is not just a house it is a home. Yes, because of the comforts, and that is important, with no comforts we would burn out on the mission field immediately (it is not the elephants that turn back missionaries, but the ants). But even more because we rely on each other and lean on each other, and even more than that because we rely on God with each other, and when we do He gives us peace. No matter what chaos is going on in life, in God there is always peace and rest waiting. That is what makes a house a home and what makes a home a sanctuary.
Isaiah 32:17-18 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
If you would like to take a look at our house and I know this has been highly requested by our friends and family, take a look at the video below.
I have been meditating a lot on what it means to rest in Jesus. We are covering the FOUNDATIONS of Christian faith in our class right now, and it has revealed a lot of things that have really impacted my faith in deep ways.
Exodus 33:14, “And He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’.” This is God speaking to Moses. I read this verse yesterday and it floored me because it is so in line with what God has been teaching me.
See, the African worldview focuses a lot on manipulating and appeasing God (or the gods), but so often my own life is that way. I do things to try and please God in order to atone for my sins.I try to balance my sins with a quick prayer or some good action to balance the scale. It's an attitude of appeasement that has sunk into our understanding of Christianity, and it’s completely ridiculous.
See, I KNOW that Jesus has washed away my sins. But I have had to ask myself do I BELIEVE it? Again, the answer is yes, but not fully sometimes. See, if I truly believe something I am going to LIVE it. So based on how I have lived and thought, I believed that Jesus MOSTLY paid for my sins, or paid for them up until my point of salvation. See, I always viewed repentance as a way of getting forgiveness for my sins after I screw up. I have been taught 1 John 1:9 in these kinds of terms ‘see, so when we mess up if we repent He will then forgive us and we can move forward’. But WHAT IF, that isn’t what repentance is about at all? Hebrews 10:12-14 says, “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” So going based on this, I am (as a believer in Jesus) PERFECTED FOREVER. Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to make me righteous for past, present, and future sins. So if repentance isn’t about getting re-forgivened (as I always sort of subconsciously thought) then what on earth is it for?
I believe it is for sanctification. If we understand the depth of our depravity, and the indescribable gift of the gospel, we are going to DESIRE to turn from our sin out of love and gratitude; not out of fear of being a bad boy or girl. And how that frees me up. Instead of trying to beat my sin on my own, I can run to my Abba Daddy and say ‘I know I am righteous in Christ, help me flee my wickedness in this (insert sin here)’. His presence becomes infinite comfort instead of infinite condemnation. But so often we misunderstand His goodness and flee from His presence until we can “sort ourselves out”.
Look at David’s example. Psalm 25:11, “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” (Clearly David knows he is a filthy sinner here). Then look at Psalm 26:1, “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity; and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” Those two statements seem so contradictory to me at first glance, but what if they aren’t? Perhaps, David (like Paul in Romans 7:20-8:1) knows he is a wicked sinner, AND is washed completely clean by the blood of Christ…
Doesn’t that give us great freedom! We are free to chase after God, and run to Him when we mess up and say ‘help me be as I ought, sanctify me’ without having to always worry about messing up our forgiveness. THAT gives me freedom to rest in Jesus. And it causes me to celebrate even more fully the grace and love of God! And when I walk in that, the presence of God in my life gives me such rest as I have never known.
Anyone who has met me for 5 seconds will know that I am introverted. Not the cute, personable introvert who is a little quiet but is well liked. Let me explain it this way, on the Jungian personality test I score greater than 96% introverted (usually it is 98%). Worse than that, I am shy. Painfully shy. My closest friends have told me, “I see why people think you aren’t friendly, but it just takes work to get to know you”.
Knowing these things about me, it probably won’t surprise you that there are some struggles associated with being introverted and called into ministry. Now, I have researched more than once things like ‘introvert and ministry’ ‘how to do ministry when you are shy’,‘is it a sin to be an introvert’ (which is a sadly common google phrase). Even in my home church, where the folks are like family to me, you would more often than not see me in kid’s ministry or vacuuming. I used to tell our lead pastor that I did it to avoid talking, and I was mostly joking-ish. However, there is something to be said for those who prefer serving in areas where small talk isn’t required.
Women are very talkative, social creatures. Even us introverts are, just in different ways. So it can become a great struggle to form relationships or feel included in the church world. It is easy to view extroversion as a good and introversion as bad. (I can’t tell you how often in life I prayed for God to make me an extrovert). But He didn’t make me an extrovert; and He still sent me to the mission field; and it is exhausting. I am in a world where I know one, ONE, person (it’s my husband). In many ways, the mission field can be an introvert’s worst nightmare (or women’s conference or even a crowded sanctuary on aSunday can be daunting).
I am not only surrounded by total strangers, but they speak a different language, oh and I am being put into formal ministry to ADULT PEOPLE. (This has renewed my prayers for God to make me an extrovert; but He hasn’t yet haha). Introversion can be tough for ministry.
I don’t have answers for my introverted or shy friends that will change your life instantly; this is probably my single greatest struggle in ministry. But I have learned some things which I must pray over and apply on a daily basis right now.
1. It is easy to get down on ourselves for being introverts. Or perhaps it draws you into a sense of inferiority or isolation. This is an attack. Whether you are inclined to feeling inferior, victimized, superior, lesser, whatever, it is an attack. Psalm 139 tells me that God fashioned me how He did and that He loves ME. Not the more social version of me. So we must stop focusing on ourselves. We must lift our eyes beyond ourselves and the things we like or don’t. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus. (This is for all of us, not just the introverts).
2. Don’t let introversion become our excuse for isolating. It is hard for me to meet new people. But if I allow fear and shyness to prevent me from pushing myself to meet people I will be a) lonely and b) ineffective in ministry. I am not saying to become a social butterfly. I am saying to not hide in our room because ‘what’s the point of going to a women’s event, I’ll just get ignored.’ We all need to be in fellowship, and feeling isolated can be a great excuse for us to play the victim and hide away to protect ourselves.
3. God has gifted each of us in different ways. We must play to our strengths in ministry. I am not a great evangelist who can go street preaching easily. But I am very good at listening to those who are hurting, or visiting the sick, or vacuuming, or cleaning toilets. Now this doesn’t excuse me from sharing the gospel. But it allows me to find the places I am effective in ministry and service and utilize them.
4. Paul says multiple times, like In Colossians 3:11, “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” So what does this tell me? It doesn’t matter how I label myself, how Jung labeled me, how you label me or anything else. It isn’t about me. Christ has done away with our strife and division and instead gives unity. I am not less or more than an extroverted believer, we are part of the same body. Christ is in both of us. And all we do is for Him. So let us seek Him in prayer, study, fellowship and service. It is all about Him anyway.
So, to wrap up. If I am seeking to serve Jesus and am sensitive to the Spirit as He calls me to ministry, then it won’t matter if I am shy or not. If He calls me to some form of ministry I will do it, and He will enable me. He doesn’t wish I was an extrovert. He loves me as I am, He loves you as you are. And He is pleased when the body works together for His glory. He pairs me in ministry with those who are weak when I’m strong and vice versa. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together unity!” Psalm 133:1.